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A vintage Navajo silver bead necklace, also

known as “Navajo Pearls” circa1950’s-60’s

The wonderfully-nicknamed “Navajo Pearls” are one of the most delightful types of all Southwestern jewelry.

They are beautiful to behold and difficult to make, but marvelously easy and rewarding to wear and the older, larger-sized, hand-crafted strands such as this one are getting more difficult to come by with every passing year.

The traditional method used by Navajo silversmiths to make such beads is laborious and painstaking; American or Mexican silver coins were melted down and cast into small silver “slugs” which were then hammered or “dapped” into semi-circular shaped round silver forms, two for each bead. These forms were then carefully punched out in the center, trimmed and filed and painstakingly fitted and soldered together to form each finished round silver bead.

An alternative method used for making smaller diameter silver beads was to use silver coins such as “Barber” or “Mercury” style dimes directly by filing them on one side to remove the minted design and then hammering or “dapping” them to form the beads. Later in the 20th century, as in this necklace, small squares or circular forms cut out from commercial sheet silver were used as the raw material from which to dap the beads.

The earlier methods were more labor and time intensive, but the amount of concentrated effort and practiced skill required to hand make silver beads this successfully and beautifully using any of these methods is considerable indeed.

This necklace consists of 41 two-piece silver beads which measure a full 1/2” in diameter. The necklace is securely strung on doubled foxtail chain and finished with a hand-crafted silver clasp. The necklace is 9 1/4” in length from top to bottom measured while lying flat on a table and it is 19” in circumference measured end-to-end while completely opened up. It weighs a nice, comfortable 62 grams or 2 1/8 ounces. The necklace is in excellent original condition with a fine, lustrous patina from age and use.

This strand of “Navajo pearls” is a striking, classic piece which will immediately turn heads in your direction whenever and wherever you choose to wear it which could be anytime from a totally formal to the most casual of occasions.

It is at once completely contemporary and completely historic and timeless.

Price $975

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Historic tools and materials used by early Navajo silversmiths to make silver beads.